Hebrews 11: “Looking Back to Move Forward”



Open your Bibles please to Hebrews 11. we are going to be looking at the whole chapter this morning. Does anyone know what this chapter is commonly referred to? it is often called the “Hall of Faith” Here in it is a list of many people and what God did through their faith in Him. This is a who’s who of the old testament in many ways. there are a bunch of the big ones named here, Moses, and David, and Abraham. and others, all commented for their faith. Before it commends them for their faith though, the author of Hebrews give a definition of faith so that we will all know what he is talking about.
Before we get into the text, I want to ask a question to get you thinking a little bit. Where were you 20 years ago today? I know for a fact, unless you went to Powhatan Church of God, you weren’t here because Emmaus Christian Church did not exist 20 years ago. So the next question is How did you end up here? For me the journey was a long and winding one, that took me to Fredericksburg, then back to Powhatan, almost to Charlottesville, and now to Emmaus. All along, there were steps of faith the we took that brought us here. I turned down an offer at a church in Midlothian a couple months before even coming to Emmaus because I believed God was calling me to Powhatan. I didn’t realize that within a few months I would be the pastor here. Ultimately though, the reason I am here at Emmaus, has nothing to to with things working out in my life, and has everything to do with the fact that I want to take God at HIs word. I want to serve a church, preach the word and see God change lives through the Gospel. I believe He will do that, not because of me, but because thats the kind of God He is.
The big idea that I believe that God wants us to hear in His word today is this: Ill read it to you, then I will read the text. “God wants us to look back at what He has done, so we will trust Him for what He is going to do.”

So, the first thing we need to look at is the definition for faith. We live in a culture that has ruined two of the words in this first verse. the first is faith, and the second is Hope. When I hear people talk about faith now a days, it is this mystical, kind of psudo-spiritual feeling of peace that you get from your religious experience. people on the news say a family is in trouble, but their faith is bringing them comfort. Or that he/she is a “person of faith” I don’t even know what that means. To me, when I hear it, honestly, my gut level, cynical reaction is that they are finding comfort in some vague notion that their “god” will somehow bless them in the end, and that whatever setback they are experiencing is a hiccup in God’s plan for their earthly blessing. Now, I will fully admit that that is my very cynical take on those types of statements. I will defend it though because faith in anything other than Christ, is not faith at all, is is like giving morphine to a cancer patient, it may mask the pain, but it cant stop the death.
So, what is true faith? Well, the writer says it in the first line. Faith is assurance! a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise. Synonyms include: word of honor, word, promise, pledge, vow, avowal, oath, bond, undertaking, guarantee, commitment.
Faith is being sure of something. Like if the sun is going to rise in the morning, or faith in my breaks to work when I press them, or faith that the light will come on in the fridge when I open the door. Those things may have times when they don’t happen, but we are surprised if they don’t right? Faith is not a 50/50 chance something might happen and you are trying to will it to happen with a positive attitude. Like when we had faith in our Broncos last year in the Super Bowl. That type of faith is the kind that we are most used to, the type that makes me cynical, the type that “hopes” for things that may or may not come to pass. Like, I hope to take a nap today, or I hope to improve my golf game, or I hope the Hot Light is one when I go to Krispy Kreme. That is the type of faith and Hope that the world deals with. But that is not Biblical Faith and Hope. Biblical faith is sure, Biblical faith is secure, Biblical Faith is a promise. Biblical faith is evidenced in actions. Biblical faith is not like making a wish when you blow out the candles, its like if I were to take and egg and drop it on the floor. our reaction would prove your faith. Not in the egg, not in my ability to catch it, but you have faith in gravity. You aren’t sure of all the details of how its going to work out, but you know that something is going to happen because you have assurance, and faith in gravity. Our faith in God should be the same, it is a gut level almost instinct that is assured of something. Now, we will get to what that something is in a bit, but first, lets look at what people’s faith is NOT in:

The faith of the saints was not in the sensibility of God’s command:
We will start with one we all know, Noah. SO, Noah was a guy who God chose to carry on the human race. God spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark. Now, we know how the story goes, but at the time, it wasn’t clear to Noah what was going ot happen. He had never been to Sunday School, or VBS. He had not seen a movie, or even a flannel graph board of the story, so he wasn’t totally sure how this would play out. But you know what he did, he build a big honking boat in a desert. Guess what happened… The rains came down and the floods came up, and it rained for forty daises. Noah and HIs family were saved, and the rest of the living world was condemned. Did God’s command to Noah make sense?
Next, lets look at Abraham. God sent him out with a promise, and it says here that old Abe, had no idea where he was going. Have you ever ben called by God to go somewhere and you didn’t know where you would end up? The closest I have been to that was when we decided to stay in Powhatan instead of move to Charlottesville, or take the position at the church in Midlothian. We did not know how things were going to go, and we did not know where we were called to other than Powhatan. It didn’t make sense at the time, but it does now.
Now, for a lady, we have Sarah, Abraham’s wife. When God told her she would be a mother, she laughed. She was past the age of childbearing. It did not make sense for them to have a child, much less decedents that outnumbered the stars, yet it says that she considered Him faithful who had promised.
Again Abraham is mentioned. After Sarah had their son, God tested him and told him to kill his only son. Now, before i go further, I feel it necessary to tell you that if you think God is asking you to kill someone, He is not. But He did ask Abraham to take Issac up the hill, carrying the wood for the fire, and Abe trusted God, that even if he killed him, God could raise him back to life. that is faith. And it didn’t make sense, until we look back on it.

2. The faith if the saints was not in the desirability of the outcome:
This is an important thing to understand. Especially in a culture that tells us over and over that you deserve the best, and you need this, or God wants you to be happy, and comfortable. Those things arent bad in themselves, but we need to remember time and time again, God does not promise those things, and so our faith is never in those things, or motivated to receive those things. Sure there were times when goo things happened, like it says in vs. 32-36, but you cannot stop there, because without stopping there is another list of those who did not experience that “winning” type of outcome. read on vs 36-38.

Ok, so now we know what their faith was not it, lets look at what their faith was in.
3. Simply put, our faith is in His eternal proximity to us. So, we are not focused on what our life will look like, but we are trusting in God’s presence in the midst of whatever life looks like. Why, do I say that? well, if you look back at Chapter 10, verse 22-23. It tells us there that the purpose of Christ’s work on our behalf should compel us to draw near. That nearness has been purchased by Christ on the cross. and it is that nearness that we have faith in.
The second place I look in chapter 10 is verse 32-36. This is a commendation of these recipients of the letter that they joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, since you knew that you had a better possession and an abiding one. Namely, the eternal presence of God. These people were motivated by faith in God’s preserving, saving presence in their lives to keep them for eternity. This type of faith looks beyond this temporal world, and all its trappings, and looks to an eternity in heaven with Christ. This type of faith scoffs at our present sufferings, because they pail in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us.
So, all this, leads me to the question of why look back, I mean, I kind of made it clear in the title of the message today. Why do we look back at the lives of those who have gone before us, and to our own lives and recall the things that God has done in us through faith?
Ill make it simple, the answer is in the first verse of chapter 12…
We need to move forward. God is calling us into new territory as people, as a church. We need to be prepared for what lies ahead, and we need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus as we do it. We need to value our relationship with Jesus more than we value our preferences, and we need to be looking , and seeking, and expecting God to call us to new, and difficult, and faith-building things! We have a mission, and we need faith to be about it! Where are we going to be in 20 years? I am going to close with a kind of extreme challenge that I want to issue to you. I want you to think very hard, and pray and examine your life. Ask yourself when was the last time you stepped out in faith towards something that didn’t make sense, and was not comfortable. Now, I am going to say something that may sound a little harsh, but I say it because I love you, and I want you to see God’s power in your life. If you cannot think of a time when you stepped out in faith into something that didn’t make sense, or something that caused you some discomfort, you are not living by faith…
So, as I close, lets take some time and ask God to pour out HIs spirit on us, because Here is the thing, if we are going to walk this road to emmaus together, we all need to be in accord, because it is going ot take faith, and it is going to stretch us. if we don’t walk in faith, we will not survive.

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